MarketMaker4: Xchanging’s eSourcing success – and the key to future direction?

We featured the change of strategy at Xchanging here, and coincidentally I recently spend a couple of hours with the firm, taking a look at the MarketMaker4 product. MarketMaker4 (MM4), the eSourcing software and service provider, was acquired by Xchanging last September and has by all accounts performed very strongly since. That success appears to be one reason behind the greater focus on software they announced last week, with the firm moving away from being a pure-play outsourcing provider.

So I met with some of the MM4 team for my first real look at the product. Two were ex Trading Partners (TP) staff, perhaps not surprisingly as Chirag Shah, the founder of MM4, was also one of the Trading Partners founders. But MM4 certainly goes beyond the TP pure auction focus, although it does have something in common with the previous firm in that services to support the software are seen as an important part of the package.

"It’s all about empowered eSourcing™", is the company's USP, and the emphasis is on providing a range of sourcing options through technology that is easy to use and comes with the support needed to drive adoption within the organisation. We all know there are still too many examples of "shelfware" in the procurement world - firms who buy expensive software then never or rarely use it. MarketMaker4 aims to provide a range of antidotes to that, so that clients really do use the product to maximum advantage.

The MarketMaker4 client base is broad, including FMCG, automotive, private equity and other sectors. European clients include a "large Russian retailer" and a well known international consumer products brand. And the overall goal is to help clients run more sourcing projects by making it easy and flexible to do so - in other words, to systemise more sourcing exercises that might have been done manually previously (or even not at all).

MM4 has four elements, which are brought together and presented to the user with easy on the eye dashboard-style visuals.

  1. Market making – arguably the most differentiating part of the offering, this consists of a highly multi-lingual team, spread around a number of countries and continents, who support clients’ sourcing events. That might mean research, indentifying suppliers, and preparing them for the sourcing process in some cases. It is not positioned as ‘consultancy’, but a certain amount of that team’s time is built into the MM4 subscription rates, and clients can buy more if they require greater input. There is an online assistant feature, so users can get help whilst they are running a sourcing exercise, or can for instance ask for background market research to be carried out prior to an event.
  2. Element two is the eSourcing Suite, which handles RFIs, RFPs, and auctions of most types and styles. The platform is “highly intuitive” and has multi-language capability. It allows for scoring and weighting of evaluation factors, multiple scores and similar capabilities, but is also designed to be easy to use by irregular users. As you might expect from the firm’s heritage, the auction capability is particularly strong, coping with different types of auction, evaluation processes and situations.
  3. The third set of capabilities is around company intelligence, which includes a partnership with Dun & Bradstreet to offer access to the D&B company database, with additional MM4 search capability. There are also RFP templates, and another partnership with our friends at Seal Software to offer their contract discovery capability to aid contract and sourcing planning.
  4. Finally, "market insights' includes over 250 different market indices that track a wide range of different commodities, products and services and provides data - mainly price related - that may be useful to buyers. There are also market reports, and some original ideas here - for example, you can create a global "heat map" that indicates visually how every country's currency has moved against yours over a given period.

 

Clearly, this is not a full source to pay suite, and does not get into spend analytics or contract management as others do. But it is a well-thought-out and presented set of capabilities designed around that clear goal of making sourcing as easy and successful as possible. It will be interesting to see if Xchanging aspire to a wider software offering that could cover a broader set of needs, but even as it is now, MarketMaker4 is impressive as a stand-alone sourcing platform.

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